Overdoses, slashed wrists, stab wounds and head injuries are just some of the emergencies dealt with by police officers sent to medical emergencies in Wales.
Information obtained by the Welsh Conservatives details the number and nature of police responses to emergencies due to the unavailability of a Welsh Ambulance Service vehicle.
Three forces responded to the FOI request.
Examples include the transport of a haemorrhaging woman in labour to hospital in Cardiff last June. In August, police officers attending a drug overdose in Swansea also took the patient to hospital. In October, officers attended the scene of an elderly man who had collapsed following a stroke in Port Talbot. He was ‘conveyed to hospital by family’ after an hour and 40 minutes.
In Gwent, medical emergencies attended by police included an assault which may have resulted in a collapsed lung, facial injuries, a stab wound to the chest, a woman found on the floor ‘bleeding from the nose and mouth’, a ‘diabetes-related illness’, serious bleeding to the head and a woman who had cut her wrists. All these casualties were taken to hospital by police.
Similar emergencies dealt with on behalf of the ambulance service in north Wales included an overdose case in which an ambulance arrived after 56 minutes, a self-harm case in which police took the casualty to hospital, a head and elbow injury which resulted in police taking the casualty to hospital, and a person who had been kicked in the head. An ambulance arrived at this latter scene after an hour and ten minutes.
In total, between March and November last year, police attended 30 medical emergencies in south Wales due to the unavailability of a Welsh Ambulance Service vehicle. 13 people were conveyed to hospital by officers.
In total, between November 2011 and October 2012, police in Gwent attended 130 medical emergencies due to the unavailability of a Welsh Ambulance Service vehicle. They transported patients to hospital 81 times.
In total, between February and June last year, police in north Wales handled 11 incidents on behalf of the Welsh Ambulance Service. Officers took patients to hospitals in five cases.
Dyfed Powys police force did not provide any details in response to a Welsh Conservative FOI request.
In its response, north Wales police also highlights the difficulty in comparing these details: ‘The systems used by Police forces in the United Kingdom for recording such figures are not generic. It should be noted that, for this reason, the force’s response to your questions should not be used for comparison purposes with any other responses you may receive’.
A review of the ambulance service – which has consistently failed to meet response time targets – is currently being undertaken.
Shadow Minister for Health, Darren Millar AM, said:
“While the invaluable assistance of the police should be applauded loudly, it remains extremely troubling that their help is so frequently required.
“The unavailability of an ambulance in any medical emergency is worrying. Some of the cases revealed here are exceptionally serious and the use of police vehicles to transport patients is disturbing.
"It cannot be right that police officers, no matter how well-trained in first aid skills, are having to transfer patients to hospitals due to the lack of a timely ambulance response.
“The Health Minister must ensure that ambulances are able to get to emergencies on time and her review of the service must look at the whole emergency care pathway to ensure that this is the case.
“Too many ambulances are spending too long stacked up outside our A and E departments instead of responding to emergency calls. Closing minor injuries units and axing medical beds will only put more pressure on response times. I urge the Minister to take immediate action to ensure that Welsh patients receive the emergency response services they deserve.”